The Mad Ones - June 16 - June 25, 2023

Studio Theatre Worcester

 What Is Intimacy Choreography? 

A Basic Introduction to Intimacy Choreography


     As theatre artists, most of us have grown into our professions believing that saying yes would be the best way to climb the ladder and achieve success in our field. Specifically, actors tend to be put under the most pressure to be cooperative in order to not be labeled as “hard to work with”. But what needs to be recognized is that actors are not just performers, but are people who use their personal vulnerability, emotions and physicality, to tell us a story. But how do we make sure that actors are handling their experience throughout the show in a safe manner that protects their mental wellbeing? Especially in a show such as The Mad Ones where we discuss loss, grief, and love at such a young age? This is where Intimacy Choreography comes into play.

     Intimacy Choreography is used to help protect and guide actors through intimate moments on stage using different techniques and tools. Its process provides detailed choreography that desexualizes and emotionally deloads scenes with specific instructions. An Intimacy Choreographer or Director is the person responsible for providing and using those techniques during the creative process. The goal overall is to create a culture of consent within the rehearsal room where physical and mental boundaries of the artists are recognized and respected, while maintaining the vision of intimacy given by the director.

     Intimate moments are vital to telling a story. Intimacy directors use their tools to make sure that these moments fit the characters and tell the story between them in the most effective way. Intimacy choreography allows the intimacy director to understand what the director is looking for and desexualize the process of achieving it. And if it doesn’t feel right for the scene, it becomes much easier to make adjustments. For example, a kiss between a young couple after a first date, will feel and look different compared to the kiss of a long married couple after a big fight. The first will need to feel light, nervous, youthful, and cute. The second may be slower, passionate, deep, and have a sense of lingering. Intimacy choreography helps to guide the actors through staging those two different types of kisses in a safe and respectful manner. The actors also don’t feel the pressure to do it correctly right away or immediately force themselves to be comfortable kissing a new acquaintance.

     When only a director is staging a kiss, it can be uncomfortable to try and describe the type of kiss needed for the scene. What happens if you use the wrong descriptors and the actors “kiss wrong”? How do you go about telling them how to “kiss better”? Outside of our team, a common and not preferred way of handling this situation is asking the actors to figure it out themselves, and unfortunately the director typically would not want to be involved. In our conversation about stage kisses, multiple people were able to relate to circumstances like this. It is so common that each of us had some story about feeling uncomfortable being part of a stage kiss or watching one because it was not handled well by the director. The fact is that this way of approaching any intimacy is an awkward and unsafe approach for all involved. Just trying to get over the stage kiss is never the way to handle it!


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